Democracy protests a legacy of ‘voice of Sudan’s dispossessed and marginalized’


A new tide of people power is rising in Africa, according to analysts and Jide Okeke. On April 2, a nonviolent resistance movement in Algeria succeeded in pressuring Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign after 20 years as president. Nine days later, protesters in Sudan were celebrating the ouster of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president of 30 years, after a three-month-long uprising against his regime, they write for Foreign Affairs:

The nonviolent overthrows of Bouteflika and Bashir are not aberrations. They reflect a surprising trend across the continent: despite common perceptions of Africa as wracked by violence and conflict, since 2000, most rebellions there have been unarmed and peaceful. Over the past decade, mass uprisings in Africa have accounted for one in three of the nonviolent campaigns aiming to topple dictatorships around the world. Africa has seen 25 new, nonviolent mass movements—almost twice as many as Asia, the next most active region with 16.

Protesters in both and Sudan have held banners proclaiming: “No to the Egyptian outcome.” The paradox for pro-democracy groups is that, to reach their goals, they must negotiate with the very forces that propped up the old regime, The Financial Times reports:

In both Algeria and Sudan, protesters know only too well what happened in Egypt after Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president during the first wave of the Arab spring in 2011 and the army controlled the subsequent transition. The flawed and chaotic democratic experiment that followed was cut short by a military coup in 2013, in which Abdel Fattah al-Sisi emerged as a new authoritarian leader. 

Sudan’s prospects for a democratic transition coincide with the passing of one of neighboring South Sudan’s most eloquent civil society activists.

“A beacon of journalism through the civil war”, “a voice for the voiceless”, “brave and courageous”, “gracious and committed” are just some of the tributes being paid to South Sudanese journalist and politician Alfred Taban, whose death was announced over the weekend, the BBC reports:

Taban, a former reporter for the BBC World Service’s Focus on Africa and Network Africa programmes in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, was the founder and former editor-in-chief of the Khartoum Monitor. It was Sudan’s first independent English-language paper – launched in September 2000 and renamed the Juba Monitor after South Sudan became independent in 2011.

When he was awarded the National Endowment for Democracy’s 2006 award, the US pro-democracy foundation said Taban had “been one of the leading non-violent voices of Sudan’s dispossessed and marginalised communities, as well as an advocate for national reconciliation, human rights and democracy“.

Africans see their individual freedoms diminishing, but many are willing to give up at least some liberties in the name of security, new Afrobarometer survey findings indicate.

The fifth of Afrobarometer’s Pan-Africa Profiles, based on recent public-opinion surveys in 34 countries, reports that in most African countries, citizens’ assessments of how free they are, and of how cautious they must be in exercising their rights, have worsened considerably over the past decade. In addition, popular demand for freedom of association has weakened, and Africans express a widespread willingness to trade some freedoms for increased security.

Taban served as the publisher and chairman of the board of directors of the Khartoum Monitor, Sudan’s only independent English-language daily newspaper, since it began publication in September 2000. The Monitor was repeatedly closed and harassed by the authorities, and Taban demonstrated extraordinary personal courage in persevering despite detention, threats, and financial hardship.

In 2005, Mr. Taban received the Speaker Abbot Award from the House of Commons’ Parliamentary Press Gallery for exposing the scale of the killing in Sudan.

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